University News

Richard Locke named next provost

Watson Institute director to take over July 1 following Vicki Colvin's resignation

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, June 1, 2015

Updated June 2, 2015, at 11 p.m.

Richard Locke, director of the Watson Institute for International Studies, will become the University’s next provost July 1. He will succeed Vicki Colvin, whose sudden resignation was announced May 19 after only one year in the position.

Locke’s selection comes after conversations with members of the Corporation and last year’s provost search committee resulted in “broad consensus” in favor of hiring from within Brown’s faculty ranks, President Christina Paxson P’19 wrote Monday in a community-wide email announcing Locke’s appointment to the post.

Locke was also a candidate in last spring’s provost search, he said.

Locke arrived at Brown in July 2013, ending a revolving door at the helm of the Watson Institute, which saw six directors in the eight years preceding his arrival. A succession of one-year interim directors followed multiple unsuccessful searches for a long-term leader.

Paxson, who has made improving the Watson Institute’s reputation and reach a focus of her tenure, personally chaired the search committee that brought Locke to Brown.

Locke’s candidacy for the position a year ago, coupled with Paxson’s personal familiarity with his work, likely propelled him to the forefront of this round’s brief search process.

Two years after she helped bring him to Brown, Paxson holds not only his top-notch professional track record but also his understanding of the University in high esteem.

“Rick Locke has a great appreciation of Brown — its distinctive values and strengths,” Paxson wrote in an email to The Herald. In her community-wide email Monday, Paxson commended Locke for his “exceptional leadership.”

Locke said he looks forward to serving as provost.

“I’m really excited about the strategic plan,” Locke said. “I plan to be working with other senior leaders (to) make sure that we have the resources to move forward and build with the plan,” he said.

Faculty members who have worked with Locke extol his commitment to interdisciplinary studies as well as his standout leadership abilities.

“Academically, he really can go across many boundaries,” said Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus of engineering. In Locke’s first year at Brown, “he talked to people at the Swearer Center (for Public Service) about his interests, which was a pretty remarkable thing for him to do given all of his other commitments,” Hazeltine said.

This dedication to bridging departments is a key part of what makes Locke “a perfect fit for Brown,” Hazeltine said.

Dean of the School of Public Health Terrie Wetle, who has worked with Locke to cosponsor events between the School of Public Health and the Watson Institute, described him as “smart and warm” and “very strategic and effective.”

“He is clear and direct and decisive — all qualities you want for a position like this,” she added.

“He is going to be a great provost because he has two qualities that you don’t often find in one person,” said Patrick Heller, director of the Watson Institute’s graduate program in development and professor of sociology and international studies. “He is a real intellectual and an accomplished academic, (and) he has the other rare gift of being an incredibly great manager.”

This unique skillset has allowed Locke to pioneer significant growth at the Watson Institute in a short period of time. “It has grown more in the past two years than it had in the decade before that,” Heller said.

In his two years as director, Locke oversaw the integration of the Watson Institute with the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, has presided over fundraising efforts that have reaped $35 million and has helped attract new talent by introducing a postdoctoral fellowship program for budding scholars and by hiring established faculty members, Paxson wrote to the community Monday.

Administratively, Locke co-chaired the Deficit Reduction Working Group, which was charged with developing recommendations to balance the University’s structural operating deficit, and helped devise Brown’s new Executive MBA Program, Paxson wrote.

These two roles are likely to be critical in preparing him for a job that requires budget fluency and an appetite for new educational programs as the University expands, innovates and seeks new sources of revenue.

Until a new director of the Watson Institute has been chosen, Locke will continue to man the post while also serving as provost.

Locke said he is well positioned to fulfill both roles for the time being. “On the Watson end, we can be somewhat on autopilot,” he said, adding that he will serve on the search committee for the new director.

Prerna Singh, assistant professor of political science and international studies, has co-taught two classes with Locke and considers him “a pedagogic leader,” she said.

“He has this kind of transformative energy,” she added.

Locke said he is most looking forward to meeting a wider range of students in his role as provost. “I really look forward to engaging with the student body, and I’m hoping I get to know a lot more students,” he said.

Before coming to Brown, Locke served as chair of the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked for 25 years, and as deputy dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management.



  1. sandy '70 says:

    he is good-looking

  2. Bouda Bass says:

    Poor Richard. He will be paid as a provost, but will have to carry the load of a President, because president Paxson is a flake.

  3. Generally when a leadership position has a high turnover rate, it’s because they were systematically bullied out by the other faculty. Likely it is because the leaders did not reflect their collective wishes. That’s why they selected a candidiate from their own ranks.

  4. Timmons Roberts says:

    I posted this also in the article on Vicki Colvin stepping down as provost.

    While it would be good to have some official explanation of what happened in this case, there are probably several valid reasons we will never get one. I’m concerned about anonymous postings which paint people as all terrible or all wonderful. President Paxson stepped into some very tough issues each of the past three years. Having been at three universities I can say that the Provost position here is extremely difficult, because power is so decentralized and schools and units each have their own endowments and missions, and become fiefdoms. There are up and down sides of that. The other major tension is between the pressure to increase the research output and grant getting, and preserving and advancing the undergraduate experience for which Brown is largely known and ranked so highly. My observation was that the two previous provosts leaned heavily on the grant side. Regardless, some informed faculty I know report that it just wasn’t a good match for Colvin in that role here. Better to pull the band-aid off quickly I suppose. All that matters really is looking forward: Rick Locke is going to be a dynamite provost, and I think we couldn’t be luckier. I am a big supporter of how President Paxson is supporting our engagement in the world as a way to renew our purpose in line with the university’s mission, and Rick Locke is going to “up our game” in many ways. Watch out for Brown in the next three years.

    • Many of the comments on the BDH about Paxson are not really directly attacking her, but are really reflecting the general feeling at Brown. The leader, after all, does represent the organization and may be criticized metaphorically. Is Brown a university or corporation? Does Brown really uphold its ideals or is it a bunch of nice words? Are the controversies at Brown merely exceptions or the rule? The phrase, “actions speak louder than words” is an important tenant to look at.

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